Polyamory in Academia – Session Summary from Polyday
On 16th June 2012 at Polyday I ran a workshop entitled “Polyamory in academia” to share some of the latest findings, and hear from the poly community about what you think researchers should be looking at next.
Approximately 75 people attended, after a short introduction they were split into roughly 15 groups of about 5 per group and asked to use flip charts to record:
- What questions about poly or consensual non-monogamy they would like to see answered by researchers.
- What they predicted the answers to those questions would be (i.e. to propose hypotheses)
The following is a summary of their responses, grouped roughly by topic. Each question is followed in brackets by any hypotheses that were suggested, and by the number of groups who recorded that question in one form or another.
For simplicity and brevity, because the terminology used was so diverse, I’ve used a short-hand made up word – ‘conomon’ (CONsensually NON- MONogamous) – to stand for the many types of ethical non-monogamy that were mentioned.
Interestingly, at the end of the session I asked people how would they feel about an effort by researchers to define terms such as ‘swinger’ ‘open relationships’ ‘polyamorous’ ‘polyfidelitous’ etc. The response was mixed with some people saying that they feared how well it would be done, and concerned about the implications, but the majority of the group seemed to be in favour of making the terminology more standardised.
It was a really fun session, people got very involved and the quality of research questions posed was excellent. We even did a little mini-research project towards the end when someone speculated on the link with handedness. The hypothesis tested was that there would be a higher proportion of left-handers in a consensually non-monogamous sample than in the broad population. A show of hands suggested that approximately 10% of the group were left handed (which is about the norm).
That might not have been a groundbreaking study but if nothing else the session showed, not surprisingly since it’s well documented that conomons are generally better educated than the general population, that there is a huge appetite and appreciation for research from members of this community. They were enthusiastic, engaged and really keen to see the science of consensual non-monogamy advanced. I thank everyone who took part and I hope that by the next Polyday progress will have been made on answering some of these questions.
Any questions or comments can be directed to Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
- How do children of conomon relationships fare? (H – same as other children of similar SES) (3)
- Are children of conomons likely to experience prejudice in society and at school? (1)
- Do children from conomon families have healthier attitudes to sex? (H – yes) (1)
- Are children of conomon families surprisingly well adjusted/ socialized/ what’s their psychological well being like/ are they more open minded/ are they better communicators? (3)
- Are children of conomon parents more likely to be conomon themselves? (1)
- Do children from conomon families engage in safer sexual practices? (H – probably) (2)
Who is Conomon?
- What proportion of the population is conomon? (From discussion – all groups wanted to know the answer to this)
- How old are people when they identify as conomon? (1)
- Where do people in conomon relationships live? (H – more in cities) (1)
- What education levels and work do conomon people have/do? (H – students, teachers, geeks and creative industries) (1)
- What types of spiritual/religious beliefs do conomons have? (2)
- Is there a common background that brings people to conomon? E.g. What attachment styles do conomons have? What personality traits? SE background in childhood? (3)
- What are the different rates of disclosed conomon across different ethnic/social/cultural groups? (4)
- Is it actually the case that a higher percentage of conomon people are members of “alternative lifestyles” (LGBT/kinky/geeky/pagan, etc.) or is it a perception as a result of selection bias, is there a hidden, non-kinky conomon community? (6)
- To what extent is eccentricity externalized in conomon? Are swingers closer to the mainstream so is poly a deliberate process of dis-identification? (1)
- Is there a correlation between non-monogamy and mental health issues (or openness about those issues) (or suicide, alcoholism, drug taking)? (H – yes, those with mental health issues are more likely to question convention and are more self-aware. Realising that you don’t conform might cause anxiety/depression.) (5)
- Do conomon people have higher life satisfaction? (1)
- Do conomon people have higher libido? Do they have sex more? (H – opinion was split) (1)
What it’s like to be Conomon
- Are poly relationships as stable as non-poly/ what’s the break up rate/ are they shorter on average? (H – similar. May depend on constellation size.) (4)
- Is relationship length indicative of its value? / Do conomons have different success criteria? (1)
- What factors lead people to self-identify as conomon? Is it nature or nurture? Are there any biological correlates (in the brain)? (H – it’s nature not nurture) (2)
- Can you identify as conomon when you’re not in any relationships? (1)
- How does conomon identity correlate with jealousy, compersion, desire for novelty? (1)
- Are conomons better at communicating/resolving conflict? (H – yes) (4)
- Is relationship success predicted by whether partners identified as conomon prior to initiating the conomon relationship? (1)
- Do conomons spend less time with those that they love than mono people and do they prefer this? (1)
- How do conomons define commitment, is exclusivity as essential part, is there a link to jealousy? (2)
- Is it a phase? (2)
- Are the rates of std transmission in conomon relationships the same as the rest of the population? (1)
- Why are conomon people not out, especially to their parents, what are the constraints on disclosure)? (2)
- What are the boundaries between close friends/ romantic friendships/ partners. What is the number and balance for people who choose conomon? (1)
- How does conomon challenge the traditional gender roles in relationships? (1)
- What sort of things are conomon people not communicating with their partners about? (1)
- Does being conomon make bereavement easier/harder/different to deal with, and in what ways? (1)
- Does being conomon make break-ups easier/harder/different to deal with, and in what ways? (1)
- How does being conomon affect carer responsibilities? (1)
- Is it possible to love more than one person? (2)
- Why do people choose to stop being conomon? (1)
- What are typical reactions when coming out to parents? (Confusion; skepticism; acceptance; anger; rejection of some partners; negotiation/pressure to change; “Don’t tell grandma”) (1)
- How do conomons arrange legal and financial status of partners? (1)
- What’s the history of the norms of monogamy vs non-monogamy – has their been a growth of consent/ equitability in relationships? (1)
- What lessons can be drawn from the operation of poly (gynous/gamous) marriage laws in other countries? (2)
- What issues, ramifications and barriers/solutions would legalizing conomon marriages present?
- What has the impact of the internet and social media had on the exposure and raising of awareness of non-monogamy? (1)
- Is being in a conomon relationship stigmatizing/ what are conomon experiences living in a mononormative society? (2)
- What are conomons perceptions of monogamy?
- Why does society consider monogamy the norm? Is it a western thing? (2)
- Do we need a new vocabulary? Poly-linguistics? Are there parallels with other sociolects? (1)